Matthew is going to be on Oprah. Seriously. If this hoarding habit of his continues, he’s heading in that direction. The boy cannot part with anything! Last night, he sobbed and yelled at me for taking down a paper Christmas wreath that had been up in his room. I explained that since the holiday was over, I was going to put it with the rest of our Christmas decorations. No. Not OK. Matthew yelled at me, “YOU BROKE THE RULE OF MY ROOM!” ‘What’s the rule,’ you ask? Yeah, I wondered the same thing but wasn’t too surprised to learn that it’s: DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING OFF OF THE WALLS. Matthew suggested that maybe we could just tape the wreath up underneath Aunt Jackie’s quilt. Hmm. Jury’s still out on that one.
In Matthew’s stocking, Santa delivered a roll of scotch tape. There must’ve been some Santa magic on that roll and/or it was JUMBO because I’m floored Matthew hasn’t used it up. I honestly thought it would be gone in a week. Matthew tapes up EVERY SINGLE little piece of paper that he has doodled on. Every piece of paper on which he’s written his name, tested his colors or drawn a robot or a John Deere or a digger…every single piece of paper gets taped up on those walls. We’re seriously starting to run out of empty wall space. And heaven forbid if I recycle a scrap of paper that had some sort of significance known only to Matthew. I’m scolded. He now digs through the recycle to make sure I’ve not pulled a fast one on him.
So, on the way home from school, I ever-so-gently broached the topic. ‘Matthew, you have a problem. And an intervention is in order. You’re tape-happy.’ Well, no, that’s what I thought but what I really said was, “Matthew, there just isn’t enough space in your room to keep every single piece of paper that you draw on. You’re going to have to start choosing your favorites. We can’t keep them all. So, either you pick some for the recycle or I will.”
A sharp intake of breath met me from the backseat. Very slowly, deliberately and with voice thick with emotion, Matthew responded, “Mom – I. Am. THE. Best. Artist. Of. The. World. I do art. That’s what I do. And my art needs to be up on my walls.”
“Yes, Matthew,” I said, “You are an amazing artist, but we just can’t keep it all.” And then, forgive me, call CPS, I did actually say, “It’s just…with all those papers up, your room is starting to look like a recycling center.”
“Mom!” Matthew gasped, “My ART is NOT recycle!!”
“No, I know, it’s not, but…um…” (what can I say that won’t land me on Dr. Phil in 12 years? OK, let’s try a different tactic). “You know, there’s another problem with keeping all those papers.”
“What?” Matthew spat.
“It’s a fire hazard. Keeping ALL those papers is dangerous.”
“Mom,” Matthew scoffed, “I know ALL about fire safety. I would PROTECT my artwork.” We talked a bit more about fire safety and then I realized that that wasn’t getting us anywhere either.
I tried a couple of other arguments that, also, brought no progress. Finally, Matthew was so exasperated, he said, “Mom. I want to be done talking about this. You’re hurting my feelings right now. I am an artist. And right now you are breaking my heart. My heart is broken by YOU, Mom.”
OK, I’m not a push-over. I’m definitely not one of those moms that looks to my children for approval, acceptance or, quite frankly, their opinion on areas of parent-type decisions, but I’m a bit stumped on this one. I did realize (especially after talking this over with a couple of people) that this is quite possibly just a phase and he’ll outgrow it a lot quicker if he doesn’t have to keep fighting it (or if WE stop fighting it). Plus, it IS true, he IS quite the artist (I’m told “the best in the world”), and I do want to support his interests and creativity. I also, however, don’t want to be Oprah because of our house being stacked wall-to-wall with scraps of paper and bits of Lego boxes and every little piece of paper that ever crossed the threshold of our home. So, for now, Matthew and I have made a deal: he can keep whatever artwork he wants but has to keep his room tidy (and I get to decide what tidy means), and if any papers are left on the dining room table or kitchen counter then I get to file them into the recycling – where they will stay! We shook on the deal.
Man, artists are hard to live with!